Home > Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)(12)

Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)(12)
Author: E.L. James

"No. I'm hungry," I mutter, knowing full well that this will distract him from this line of questioning.

"Why didn't you say?" He eases me off his lap and stands.

Saint Paul de Vence is a medieval fortified hilltop village, one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen. I stroll arm in arm with Christian through the narrow cobbled streets, my hand in the back pocket of his shorts. Taylor and either Gaston or Philippe - I can't tell the difference between them - trail behind us. We pass a tree-covered square where three old men, one wearing a traditional beret in spite of the heat, are playing boules. It's quite crowded with tourists, but I feel comfortable tucked under Christian's arm. There is so much to see -

little alleys and passageways leading to courtyards with intricate stone fountains, ancient and modern sculptures, and fascinating little boutiques and shops.

In the first gallery, Christian gazes distractedly at the erotic photographs in front of us, sucking gently on the arm of his aviator specs. They are the work of Florence D'elle - naked women in various poses.

"Not quite what I had in mind," I mumble disapprovingly. They make me think of the box of photographs I found in his closet, our closet. I wonder if he ever did destroy them.

"Me neither," Christian says, grinning down at me. He takes my hand and we stroll to the next artist. Idly, I wonder if I should let him take photos of me after all. My inner goddess nods frantically with approval.

The next display is by a female painter who specializes in figurative art - fruit and vegetables super close up and in rich, glorious color.

"I like those." I point to three paintings of peppers. "They remind me of you chopping vegetables in my apartment." I giggle. Christian's mouth twists as he tries and fails to hide his amusement.

"I thought I managed that quite competently," he mutters. "I was just a bit slow, and anyway" - he pulls me into an embrace - "you were distracting me. Where would you put them?"

"What?"

Christian is nuzzling my ear. "The paintings - where would you put them?" He bites my earlobe and I feel it in my groin.

"Kitchen," I murmur.

"Hmm. Nice idea, Mrs. Grey."

I squint at the price. Five thousand euros each. Holy shit!

"They're really expensive!" I gasp.

"So?" He nuzzles me again. "Get used to it, Ana." He releases me and saunters over to the desk where a young woman dressed entirely in white is standing gaping at him. I want to roll my eyes, but turn my attention back to the paintings. Five thousand euros . . . jeez.

We have finished lunch and are relaxing over coffee at the Hotel Le Saint Paul. The view of the surrounding countryside is stunning. Vineyards and fields of sunflowers form a patchwork across the plain, interspersed here and there with neat little French farmhouses. It's such a clear, beautiful day we can see all the way to the sea, glinting faintly on the horizon. Christian interrupts my reverie.

"You asked me why I braid your hair," he murmurs. His tone alarms me. He looks . . . guilty.

"Yes." Oh shit.

"The crack whore used to let me play with her hair, I think. I don't know if it's a memory or a dream."

Whoa! His birth mom.

He gazes at me, his expression unreadable. My heart leaps into my mouth. What do I say when he says things like this?

"I like you playing with my hair." My voice is gentle and hesitant. He blinks, his eyes wide, and fearful.

"Do you?"

"Yes." It's the truth. Reaching over I grasp his hand. "I think you loved your birth mother, Christian." His eyes widen even more and he stares at me impassively, saying nothing.

Holy shit. Have I gone too far? Say something, Fifty - please. But he remains resolutely mute, gazing at me with fathomless gray eyes while the silence stretches between us.

What are you thinking, husband of mine? He looks lost. He glances down at my hand on his and he frowns.

"Say something," I whisper, because I cannot bear the silence any longer.

He blinks then shakes his head, exhaling deeply.

"Let's go." He releases my hand and stands. His expression guarded. Have I overstepped the mark? I have no idea. My heart sinks and I don't know whether to say anything else or just let it go. I decide on the latter and follow him dutifully out of the restaurant. In the lovely narrow street, he takes my hand.

"Where do you want to go?"

He speaks! And he's not mad at me - thank heavens. I exhale, relieved, and shrug. "I am just glad you're still speaking to me."

"You know I don't like talking about all that shit. It's done. Finished," he says quietly .

No, Christian, it isn't. The thought saddens me, and for the first time I wonder if it will ever be finished. He'll always be Fifty Shades . . . my Fifty Shades. Do I want him to change? No, not really -

only insofar as I want him to feel loved. Peeking up at him, I take a moment to admire his captivating beauty . . . and he's mine. And it's not just the allure of his fine, fine face and his body that has me spellbound. It's what's behind the perfection that draws me, that calls to me. . . his fragile, damaged soul. He gives me that look, down his nose, half amused, half wary, wholly sexy then tucks me under his arm, and we make our way through the tourists toward the spot where Philippe/Gaston has parked the roomy Mercedes. I slip my hand back into the back pocket of Christian's shorts, grateful that he isn't mad at my presumption. But, honestly, what four-year-old child doesn't love his mom, no matter how bad a mom she is? I sigh heavily and hug him closer. I know behind us the security team lurks, and I wonder idly if they've eaten.

Christian stops outside a small boutique selling fine jewelry and gazes in the window, then down at me. He reaches across, grasps my free hand, and runs his thumb across the faded red line of the handcuff mark, inspecting it.

"It's not sore." I reassure him. He twists so that my other hand is freed from his pocket. He clasps that hand, too, turning it gently over to examine my wrist. The platinum Omega watch he gave me at breakfast on our first morning in London obscures the red line. The inscription still makes me swoon.

Anastasia

You are my More

My Love, My Life

Christian

In spite of everything, all his fiftyness, my husband can be so romantic. I gaze down at the faint marks on my wrist. Then again, he can be savage sometimes. Releasing my left hand, he tilts my chin up with his fingers and scrutinizes my expression, his eyes wide and troubled.

"They don't hurt," I repeat. He pulls my hand to his lips and plants a soft apologetic kiss on the inside of my wrist.

"Come," he says and leads me into the shop.

"Here," Christian holds open the filigree platinum bracelet he's just purchased. It's exquisite, so delicately crafted, the filigree in the shape of small abstract flowers with small diamonds at their heart. He fastens it around my wrist. It's wide and cuff-like and hides the red marks. It is also cost around fifteen thousand euros, I think, though I couldn't really follow the conversation in French with the sales assistant. I have never worn anything so expensive.

"There, that's better," he murmurs.

"Better?" I whisper, gazing into luminous gray eyes, conscious that the stick-thin sales assistant is staring at us with a jealous and disapproving look on her face.

"You know why," Christian says uncertainly.

"I don't need this." I shake my wrist and the cuff moves. It catches the afternoon light streaming through the boutique window and small sparkling rainbows dance off the diamonds all over the walls of the store.

"I do," he says with utter sincerity.

Why? Why does he need this? Does he feel guilty? About what?

The marks? His birth mother? Not confiding in me? Oh, Fifty.

"No, Christian, you don't. You've given me so much already. A magical honeymoon, London, Paris, the Cote D'Azur . . . and you. I'm a very lucky girl," I whisper and his eyes soften.

"No, Anastasia, I'm a very lucky man."

"Thank you." Stretching up on tiptoes, I put my arms around his neck and kiss him . . . not for giving me the bracelet, but for being mine.

Books
     Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)
     Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)
     Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
     Grey (Fifty Shades #4)